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August 10, 2023

After almost two year of litigation and poaching players for millions of dollars, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf announced a merger

By Nicholas Miller
Nick Miller Author: Nicholas Miller

The world of professional golf was flipped on its head the morning of June 6th, 2023. After almost two year of litigation and poaching players for millions of dollars, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf announced a merger.

As a fan of professional golf, I found myself in a moral dilemma.

Throughout this I refused to support LIV Golf due to them being funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment fund, a government-controlled fund that has $650 billion in assets. Controversy has surrounded the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salmon since beginning to sink money into prominent businesses elsewhere around the globe including sports franchises like Newcastle United and LIV Golf. These acquisitions are seen as a form of “sportswashing” it's poor human rights reputation.

I couldn't show my support for a league that receives funding from a group that is openly homophobic and against freedom of speech. A group that sentenced PHD student Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison for her writing and peaceful support of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. A government that bans human rights organizations by law and continues to harass and imprison activists.

Despite these controversies, the PGA still chose to merge with LIV Golf. Blindsiding their players and golf fans.

Though I view this merger as regressive for the PGA, I have learned it is the athletes that are the leaders of change. Throughout this program we learned that sports can be a vehicle for change. Activism shown by athletes, teams and leagues can bring about social change through ways of collective action and financial contributions. I believe that professional golfers need to capitalize on this opportunity to unite change in the sports industry.

Collective action occurs when a group goes beyond individual gestures or statements to show solidarity as a group in support of social justice causes. PGA and LPGA athletes have an opportunity to stand together against this merger. Below is a list of examples where players collective action could lead to change:

  1. PGA Tour players boycotting major tournaments and events.
  2. Standing in solidarity with LPGA players to show support for women's rights in Saudi Arabia.
  3. Having the tours most popular players draft press releases publicly condemning the PGA's commissioner for accepting funding from ani-human rights organizations.

Athletes have a competitive advantage when it comes to making a difference in society. Professional players are making more money than ever from sponsorships and tournament winnings. Now receiving funding and tournament payouts from the Saudi Arabian government, these players have an opportunity to give financial contributions. RISE teaches that athletes can use financial contributions as a vehicle for change, a monetary donation to an organization to demonstrate their commitment to a cause.

Regarding PGA Tour athletes, my recommendation is to estimate a percentage of salary or tournament winnings that comes from the Saudi Investment Fund and donate that percentage of winnings to an organization that remains unsupported by the Crown Prince. For example, Brooks Koepka took home $3.15 million in prize money after winning the PGA Tour Championship. He was also reportedly given a $100 million bonus to join LIV Golf. Using a percentage of these payouts to donate to women's rights organizations or Saudi Arabian human rights organizations would have a massive social impact.

These athletes have an opportunity to stand against what the Saudi Arabian government stands for, even if the PGA Tour did not give them an option to begin involvement with the Saudi Investment Fund. Collective action by standing in solidarity with women's rights organizations, or financial contributions to human rights organizations can give PGA Tour athletes the power and influence to create social change.

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